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Dr. John Francis Clinton

Director of Seismic Networks

Dr.  John Francis Clinton
Swiss Seismological Service (SED)
ETH Zürich
Dr. John Francis Clinton
NO FO 69.3
Sonneggstrasse 5
8092 Zürich

  +41 44 633 44 36

Dr. John Clinton is the Director of the Seismic Networks and the Head of the Earthquake Monitoring section at the SED. He is also a Co-Investigator for the Mars InSight mission. 

His expertise and research interests include earthquake early warning and real time seismology; seismic instrument design, testing and deployment; seismic network development; strong motion seismology; very broad band seismology; high rate GPS; structural health monitoring; ambient and forced vibration studies of multi-story structures; continuous monitoring of structures; glacial seismology; icequakes and calving.

He and his group manage the broadband and strong motion seismic networks in Switzerland, and are responsible for the detection and quantification of earthquakes in and around Switzerland. Along with Prof. Domenico Giardini, he leads the Marsquake Service that will build the catalogue of seismic events as recorded by the InSight lander from 2018. He is involved in a series of projects on national and international level, including the Mars InSight mission, EPOS IP (EEW testing centre and the Valais Near Fault Observatory), RAMSIS (induced seismicity) and a DEZA funded project to develop EEW capability in Nicaragua and Central America. He is a member of the EIDA Management Board, the Orfeus Executive Committee, the EPOS Ethics Board, the UNESCO International Platform on Earthquake Early Warning Systems (IP-EEWS) and the IRIS Quality Assurance Advisory Committee.

June 2008 -

Director of Seismic Networks Swiss Seismological Service, Institute of Geophysics, ETH Zurich

April 2005 -
May 2008

Oberassistent Swiss Seismological Service, Institute of Geophysics, ETH Zurich

Jan. 2004 -
March 2005

Assistant Professor of Strong Motion Seismology Department of Engineering and Surveying, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez

April 2004 -
Dec. 2004

Assistant Scientist, Seismological Laboratory, Caltech

California Institute of Technology
Ph.D. Civil Engineering (Minor in Geophysics), April 2004.
Advisor: Thomas H. Heaton
Thesis: Modern Digital Seismology - Instrumentation,
and Small Amplitude Studies for the Engineering world California Institute of Technology
M.Sc. Civil Engineering, June 1998.

University College Dublin
B.E. Civil Engineering, June 1997. 

ETH Geophysics Masters Program
GDP07 [2006,2007] : Geophysical Data Processing

UPRM Civil Engineering Masters Level
CI5995 [2005]: Engineering Seismology

Caltech Teaching Assistantships

  • AM35 - Statics and Dynamics -1997-1998, 1999-2000, 2000-2001
  • CE115 - Soil Mechanics - Autumn 1998, Winter 1999
  • CE180 - Experimental Methods in Earthquake Engineering - Spring 1999
  • Engineering Computing Facilty Teaching Assistant - 2001-2002
  • CE181 - Engineering Seismology - Autumn 2002
  • AM66 - Vibration - Spring 2002
  • AM125 - Engineering Mathematical Principles - Spring 2004

Member, Swiss Academy of Sciences (since 2008)

Member, Orfeus Executive Committee (since 2009)

Chair, European Integrated Data Archives (EIDA), Orfeus Working Group (2013-2015)

IASPEI correspondent at SNC-IUGG (since 2013)

Member, IRIS Quality Assurance Advisory Committee (since 2013)

Member, EPOS Ethics Board (since 2016)

Clinton, J., C. Cauzzi, D. Fäh, C. Michel, P. Zweifel, M. Olivieri, G. Cua, F. Haslinger and D. Giardini. (2011) The Current State of Strong Motion Monitoring in Switzerland, in Earthquake Data in Engineering Seismology: Predictive Models, Data Management and Networks (Geotechnical, Geological and Earthquake Engineering), Editors Akkar, S., Gülkan, P., and van Eck, T., ISBN 10: 9400701519 | 2011

Evans, P. L., A. Strollo, A. Clark, T. Ahern, R. Newman, J. F. Clinton, H. Pedersen, and C. Pequegnat (2015), Why seismic networks need digital object identifiers, Eos, 96, doi:10.1029/2015EO036971. Published on 8 October 2015.

M.‐A. Meier, T. Heaton,  J. Clinton (2015) The Gutenberg Algorithm: Evolutionary Bayesian Magnitude Estimates for Earthquake Early Warning with a Filter Bank, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America published ahead of print September 8, 2015, doi:10.1785/0120150098

Behr, Y., J. Clinton, P. Kästli, C. Cauzzi, R. Racine,  M‐A. Meier (2015) Anatomy of an Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) Alert: Predicting Time Delays for an End‐to‐End EEW System, Seismological Research Letters, May/June 2015, v. 86, p. 830-840, doi:10.1785/0220140179

S. Häberling, M. Rothacher, Y. Zhang, J. F. Clinton, A. Geiger (2015) Assessment of high-rate GPS using a single-axis shake tableJournal of Geodesy (July 2015), 89(7): 697-709 do:10.1007/s00190-015-0808-2

Zhang, Y., L. A. Dalguer, S. G. Song, J. Clinton and D. Giardini (2014) Evaluating the effect of network density and geometric distribution on kinematic source inversion models, Geophys. J. Int. (January, 2015) 200 (1): 1-16 doi:10.1093/gji/ggu252

Diehl, T.,  J. Clinton, T. Kraft, S. Husen, K. Plenkers, A. Guilhelm, Y. Behr, C. Cauzzi, P. Kästli, F. Haslinger, D. Fäh C. Michel and  S. Wiemer (2014) Earthquakes in Switzerland and surrounding regions during 2013, Swiss Journal of Geosciences, October 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s00015-014-0171-y

Clinton, J. F., M. Nettles, F. Walter, K. Anderson, T. Dahl-Jensen, D. Giardini, A. Govoni, W. Hanka, S. Lasocki, W. S. Lee, D. McCormack, S. Mykkeltveit, E. Stutzmann and S. Tsuboi (2014) Seismic Network in Greenland Monitors Earth and Ice System, Eos Trans. AGU, 95(2):13-14 DOI: 10.1002/2014EO020001

Diehl, T., N. Deichmann, J. Clinton, S. Husen, T. Kraft, K. Plenkers, B. Edwards, C. Cauzzi, C. Michel, P. Kästli, S. Wiemer, F. Haslinger, D. Fäh, U. Kradolfer, J. Woessner (2013) Earthquakes in Switzerland and surrounding regions during 2012, Swiss Journal of Geosciences, 106(3), pp 543-558; DOI: 10.1007/s00015-013-0154-4

Walter, F., P. D. Canassy, S. Husen, J. F. Clinton (2013) Deep icequakes: What happens at the base of alpine glaciers? J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf., 118(3), 1720–1728; DOI: 10.1002/jgrf.20124

Cauzzi C. and J. Clinton (2013) A High- and Low-Noise Model for High-Quality Strong-Motion Accelerometer Stations, Earthquake Spectra: February 2013, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp. 85-102; DOI:

Walter, F., M. Olivieri, J. F. Clinton (2013) Calving event detection by observation of seiche effects on the Greenland fjords, Journal of Glaciology, 59(213), 2013; DOI:10.3189/2013JoG12J118

Fäh, D., Moore. J. R., Burjanek, I. Iosifescu, L. Dalguer, F. Dupray, C. Michel, J. Woessner, A. Villiger, J. Laue, I. Marschall, V. Gischig, S. Loew, A. Marin, G. Gassner, S. Alvarez, W. Balderer, P. Kästli, D. Giardini, C. Iosifescu, L. Hurni, P. Lestuzzi, A. Karbassi, C. Baumann, A. Gediger, A. Ferrari, L. Laloui, J. Clinton and N. Deichmann (2012). Coupled seismogenic geohazards in Alpine regions Bollettino di Geofisica, 53(4), December 2012:485-508; DOI 10.4430/bgta0048

Deichmann, N., J. Clinton, S. Husen, B. Edwards, F. Haslinger, D. Fäh, D. Giardini, P. Kästli, U. Kradolfer and S. Wiemer (2012). Earthquakes in Switzerland and surrounding regions during 2011, Swiss Journal of Geosciences 105(3); DOI: 10.1007/s00015-012-0116-2.

Olivieri, M and J. Clinton (2012) An almost fair comparison between Earthworm and SeisComp3, Seismological Research Letters, 83(4):720-727; DOI: 10.1785/0220110111

Amundson, J. M., J. F. Clinton, M. Fahnestock, M. Truffer, M. P. Lüthi, R. J. Motyka. (2012) Observing calving-generated ocean waves with coastal broadband seismometers, Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland, Annals of Glaciology 53(60); DOI: 10.3189/2012/AoG60A200

Goertz-Allmann, B. P. B. Edwards, F. Bethmann, N. Deichmann, J. Clinton, D. Fäh, D. Giardini. (2011) A New Empirical Magnitude Scaling Relation for SwitzerlandBulletin of the Seismological Society of America, December 2011 101:3088-3095; DOI:10.1785/0120100291

Husen, S., E. Kissling, J. F. Clinton. (2011) Local and regional minimum 1D models for earthquake location and data quality assessment in complex tectonic regions: application to Switzerland, Swiss Journal of Geosciences; DOI 10.1007/s00015-011-0071-3  

Deichmann, N., J. Clinton, S. Husen, B. Edwards, F. Haslinger, D. Fäh, D. Giardini, P. Kästli, U. Kradolfer, S. Wiemer. (2011) Earthquakes in Switzerland and surrounding regions during 2010, Swiss Journal of Geosciences 104:537–547; DOI 10.1007/s00015-011-0084-y

Deichmann, N.,  J. Clinton, S. Husen, B. Edwards, F. Haslinger, D. Faeh, D. Giardini, P. Kaestli, U. Kradolfer, I. Marschall, S. Wiemer. (2010) Earthquakes in Switzerland and surrounding regions during 2009, Swiss Journal of Geosciences, 103(3): 535-549; DOI: 10.1007/s00015-010-0039-8

Edwards, B., A. Allmann, D. Fäh and J. Clinton. (2010). Automatic Computation of Moment Magnitudes for Small Earthquakes and the Scaling of Local to Moment Magnitude , Geophysics Journal International, 183: 407–420. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-246X.2010.04743.x

Walter, F., D. S. Dreger, J. F. Clinton, N. Deichmann, M. Funk. (2010). Evidence for near-horizontal tensile faulting at the base of Gornergletscher, Switzerland. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 100(2): 458-472.

Walter, F., J. F. Clinton, N. Deichmann, D. S. Dreger, S. E. Minson, M. Funk. (2009). Moment tensor inversions of icequakes on Gornergletscher, Switzerland, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, April 2009, 99(2A), DOI:10.1785/0120080110.

Deichmann, N. M. Baer, J. Clinton, S. Husen, D. Faeh, D. Giardini, P. Kaestli, U. Kradolfer, S. Wiemer (2008). Earthquakes in Switzerland and surrounding regions during 2007, Swiss Journal of Geosciences, 101 (2008), p. 659-667.

Baer, M., N. Deichmann, J. Braunmiller, J. Clinton, S. Husen, D. Faeh, D. Giardini, P. Kaestli, U. Kradolfer, S. Wiemer (2007). Earthquakes in Switzerland and surrounding regions during 2006, Swiss J. Geosciences, 100 (2007), p. 517-528.

Clinton, J. F., E. Hauksson and K. Solanki. (2006). An Evaluation of the SCSN Moment Tensor Solutions: Robustness of the Mw Magnitude Scale, Style of Faulting, and Automation of the Method, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 96(5); 1689-1705.

Clinton, J., G. Cua, V. Huerfano, C. G. von Hillebrandt-Andrade and J. M. Cruzado. (2006). The current state of seismic monitoring in Puerto Rico, Seismological Research Letters, 77(5); 532-543.

Hutton, K., E. Hauksson, J. Clinton, J. Franck, A. Guarino, N. Scheckel, D. Given, and A. Yong. (2006). Southern California Seismic Network Update, Seismological Research Letters,  77(3).

Clinton, J. F., S. C. Bradford, T. H. Heaton and J. Favela. (2006). The Observed Wandering of the Natural Frequencies in a Structure, Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America; 96(1); 237-257.

Clinton, J. F. and T. H. Heaton. (2002). The Potential Advantages of a Strong-motion Velocity Meter Over a Strong-motion Accelerometer, Seismological Research Letters, 73(3).

Clinton, J. F., Modern Digital Seismology - Instrumentation, and Small Amplitude Studies for the Engineering World, PhD Thesis, California Institute of Technology, 2004

Bradford, S. C, J. F. Clinton, and J. Favela, Results of Millikan Library Forced Vibration Testing, EERL Report, California Institute of Technology, 2004.

Clinton, J. F. and T. H. Heaton, Performance of the VSE-355G2 Strong Motion Velocity Seismometer - Version II, Submitted to the IRIS-GSN Sub-Commitee, 2003

J. Clinton, T. Diehl, C. Cauzzi and P. Kaestli, Earthquake Monitoring: SeisComP3 at the Swiss National Seismic Network, AGU December 2011 [SC3_SED_AGU2011_midres, .pdf, 9MB]

Husen, S., J. Clinton, M. Olivieri and D. Giardini, The Swiss Seismological Service in Greenland: Network Building and Research Initiatives, AGU December 2010 [AGU__Greenland_Clinton.png, .png, 9MB]

Clinton, J. F., G. Cua, D. Faeh, M. Baer, P. Zweifel and D. GiardiniStrong Motion Network and Activities in Switzerland, Crete, ESC, Sept 2008[.pdf (11MB, A0 size)]

Clinton, J. F., and Kaestli, P.The Seismic Network of Swtizerland, Barcelona, ORFEUS Seismic Networks Conference, May 2008[.pdf (20MB, A0 size)]

Clinton, J. F., Larson, K. and A. BilichHigh-Rate GPS Data - When are They Useful?, AGU December 2007 [Bilich_etal_AGU2007(5.5MB, A0 size)]

Clinton, J. F., Heaton, T. H. and S. C. BradfordChanging Natural Frequencies in Structures : The Case of Millikan Library , ECEES, Geneva, September 2006[.pdf (8MB, A0 size)]

Clinton, J. F.Rapid Moment Tensor Solutions in Switzerland, ECEES, Geneva, September 2006

Clinton, J. F. and E. HaukssonThe real-time SCSN moment tensor solution: robustness of MW , and style of faulting, SSA April 2006 [.pdf (3MB, letter size)] [abstract]

Clinton, J. F., E. Hauksson and K. SolankiAn Automated Moment Tensor Solution for the Southern California Seismic Network (SCSN), AGU December 2004 [.pdf (4MB, letter size)] [abstract]

Clinton, J. F. and T. H. HeatonInstrument Performance in M8.3 Tokachi-Oki Earthquake, Broadband Seismometer Workshop, Lake Tahoe, March 2004 [.pdf (2.2MB, letter size)] [abstract]

Clinton, J. F. and T. H. HeatonIs There a Linear Building Transfer Function for Small Excitation?, AGU December 2003 [.pdf (4MB, letter size)] [abstract]

Clinton, J. F. and T. H. HeatonThe Observed Drifting of the Natural Frequencies in a Structure, SCEC Annual Conference, September 2003 [.pdf (3MB, letter size)] [abstract]

Clinton, J. F. and T. H. HeatonPotential Advantages of a Strong Motion Velocity Meter as Opposed to a Strong Motion Accelerometer, SSA Meeting, April 2001 [abstract]

Modern Digital Seismology - Instrumentation, and Small Amplitude Studies for the Engineering world

(defended, April 27 2004)

Caltech ETD version


The recording of ground motions is a fundamental part of both seismology and earthquake engineering. The current state-of-the-art 24-bit continuously recording seismic station is described, with particular attention to the frequency range and dynamic range of the seismic sensors typically installed. An alternative method of recording the strong-motions would be to deploy a velocity sensor rather than an accelerometer. This instrument has the required ability to measure the strongest earth motions, with enhanced long period sensitivity. 

An existing strong motion velocity sensor from Japan was tested for potential use in US seismic networks. It was found to be incapable of recording strong motions typically observed in the near field of even moderate earthquakes. The instrument was widely deployed near the M8.3 Sept 2003 Tokachi-Oki earthquake. The dataset corroborated our laboratory observations of low velocity saturations. The dataset also served to show all inertial sensors are equally sensitive to tilting, which is widespread in large earthquakes. High rate GPS data is also recorded during the event. Co-locating high-rate GPS with strong motion sensors is suggested to be currently the optimal method by which the complete and unambiguous deformation field at a station can be recorded. 

A new application of the modern seismic station is to locate them inside structures. A test station on the 9th floor of Millikan Library is analysed. The continuous data-stream facilitates analysis of the building response to ambient weather, forced vibration tests, and small earthquakes that have occurred during its lifetime. The structure's natural frequencies are shown to be sensitive not only to earthquake excitation, but rainfall, temperature and wind. This has important implications on structural health monitoring, which assumes the natural frequencies of a structure do not vary significantly unless there is structural damage. 

Moderate to small earthquakes are now regularly recorded by dense, high dynamic range networks. This enhanced recording of the earthquake and its aftershock sequences makes possible the development of a Green's Function deconvolution approach for determining rupture parameters.